Illegal immigration targets need to be kept

You can always rely on politicians to take a good idea and make such a hash of implementing it that public opinion turns against it and an opportunity is lost for a generation.

I refer, of course, to the efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the country. An absolutely justified and necessary task which the majority of the public will agree with. It’s not fair for genuine immigrants to go through the proper channels, pay for visas and pay taxes when they get here if illegal immigrants are effectively given an amnesty because it’s too much effort to track them down and send them home. So it’s right that the British government should have targets for removing illegal immigrants from the country.

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The problem is, immigration officials have been going after easy targets: the Windrush generation. These are people who are legally entitled to live in the UK thanks to various pieces of legislation giving residency rights to citizens of many former colonies and Commonwealth countries. But there is no register of the people who have that entitlement, nor is there a reliable list of people who decided to exercise those rights so they have to prove their entitlement when asked.

This hasn’t really been a problem until recently when immigration officials have started asking people who’ve lived here 40 or 50 years to prove that they were entitled to do so all those years ago. Many people have no proof because they haven’t needed any proof and hadn’t anticipated being interrogated by immigration when they visit family and some have been deported to a country that they don’t belong in, breaking up families and ruining lives in the process.

Looking at the situation objectively there has to be a problem with people falsely claiming the right to live here under those pieces of legislation that granted the Windrush generation rights otherwise they wouldn’t be wasting time, money and political capital targeting them. The trouble is that they are deporting people who shouldn’t be deported and they know they are but there are targets to hit and this is an easy way of hitting them. Targets that have been put in place because the British government has no control over EU immigration so can only target non-Europeans to get immigration figures down.

The outcome of this incompetent handling of immigration controls and the subsequent terminological inexactitudes in parliament from the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has led to the abandonment of any targets to remove illegal immigrants from the country. Rather than just telling immigration officials not to investigate and deport people from the Commonwealth who have been living here for 40 years they have given a green light not only to historic illegal immigrants but to those who are planning to make their way here in future. It’s like ATOS disability assessments and the so-called Bedroom Tax all over again – good idea, terrible execution and now so toxic that any government wanting to pick it up again in the future will be committing political suicide. The only good thing to come out of it is Amber Rudd announcing her resignation today.

The Windrush generation need some certainty and that means putting a stop to the deportation of Commonwealth citizens who have been living in this country for years. They have a right to live here and are well integrated into society. Targets for the removal of illegal immigrants absolutely need to stay but the focus needs to be on those who are actually here illegally. It’s not hard to tell the difference.

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